The Q&A Archives: Indoor Houseplant Lighting

Question: I started a corner in my apartment for houseplants. I put a flourescent type light up called "gro and sho" by GE. At first they were thriving but now they are beginning to wilt and becoming leggy. Some of them are actually producing distorted looking, shiny leaves. I want to solve this problem before the plants get worse. The light is about 1-2 feet above the plants. Any suggestions?

Answer: Plants tend to be leggy and "stretch" when in need of additional light and/or they are overfertilized.

The lights should be about five inches from the plants and should be left on for about 16 hours a day. You might also need more bulbs for the number of plants you have; over time the plants will tell you if the spectral quality is off or if the intensity is not high enough.

If you are growing plants in need of maximum light levels then you may want to look into other types of specialty plant lighting such as the special "High Intensity Discharge" grow lights; these are usually either metal halide or high pressure sodium lights.

Make sure you are fertilizing in accordance with label instructions. Newly purchased plants often come with long release fertilizer already in the soil mix, so you may not need to fertilize at all at first. They will also have foliage acclimated to optimum lighting -- especially if newly brought in from the commerical grower in Florida for example -- and it will take them some time to adapt to the conditions at home.

Distorted new leaves can also indicate a pest infestation or physical damage to the growing tips, so you might check into those aspects as well.

I hope this helps you trouble shoot the problem.

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